I’ve been growing out various perennial Physalis for years, and wondering if anyone else here shares my interest in them. They are a very common and often overlooked weed many places, and can be very tasty and prolific. The Peruvian ‘golden berry’ has somewhat taken off as a commercial fruit, and is pretty tasty, though the Colombian ones you see in the stores are pretty tart compared to peruviana strains that I’ve grown from seed. The native types have a sharper and less refined flavor, often with a little twinge of solanaceousness at the end. The taxonomy on these native Physalis seems to be a total mess. The fruits tend to be verrry sticky, even covered with visible resin/tar type substance in some individuals. I have some types that make fruit nearly the size of the common Peruvian as, which is 3/4”
. Ive been trying to effect a cross between peruviana and the native types. No luck as of yet, and there may be ploidy issues to consider.
I think there’s a lot of potential in this genus.
I do have one particularly large issue that has cropped up with these Physalis. There is an insect pest that destroys the vast majority of my fruit. I’ve been unable to figure out what it is, what its life cycle is, or how I might go about remedying this situation. Beginning 5 or more years ago, 95+ % of the fruit has a small black bore hole and contains a small worm that pupates in, consumes, and defecates inside. I’ve looked at maturing fruit at various stages, and have not been able to determine the stage when the bug arrives. It’s possible eggs are laid inside the husk (calyx) well before the fruit shows damage. The worms seem to eat their way out and disappear, presumably into the soil, I’d think. i keep meaning to try some remay to see if these pests were deterred or eliminate.
Anyone have any knowledge or experience to share on the matter?
I saw the thread about peruviana breeding being done at Rutgers University. I intend to reach out to someone there about both breeding and pest control at some point.
This sounds troubling, especially since it seems able to overwinter in your unforgiving climate. Have you tried placing the “worms” into jars with their fruit, to see what they turn into?
I’ve never had any major pests with my P. pruinosa, either here in the PNW, or when I lived in the Mid-Atlantic.
Flea beetles eat holes in the leaves, but other than that the fruit are untouched by anything until they start to decompose, when slugs and worms go for them.
I’m growing peruviana this year, from seeds of those tart Colombian ones in the store, they have barely sprouted:
I should have added the pest does not bother the annual pruinosa much, though an occasionally. It’s been a while since I grew any peruviana so can’t say I’m that front. I have a few year old plants I plan to grown in the high tunnel this year though. A somewhat similar though much larger worm (of sorts) afflict the tomatillo. There are lots of wild Physalis here growing in banks, field edges, etc. and many to most seem to have this worm issue.
Ive suspected the worm is Lepidopteran, and somewhere found some info about a small brown moth that is an issue elsewhere. Not a close match really, but more than I’ve found elsewhere after much digging. Not surprising, I spose that no one has thought to pay mind to a pest of an overlooked weed. The curious thing to me is the fact of the fruit being inside the husk/calyx. You’d think it would offer pretty good protection, suggest some degree of specialization on the pests’ part. Earwigs are fond of the husks, and enter freely the slight opening at the tip.
It’s a shame though, really because thirds can be incredibly productive and pretty tasty as is. They’re citrusy and complex, with a non unpleasant ‘bite’ and most people I’ve given them to have enjoyed them. With breeding, who knows. The better selections I’ve found make a fruit every 2” or so along stems 12-16” long. Stem density is high though for such a ‘weedy’ plant, they don’t abide competition that well. They are very good at tolerating stress, however. I’ve seen them grow prolifically where thick layers of shale, crushed stone, flagging, or landscape fabric have kept grass and other forbs
The jar test would be telling. I’ll have to try it and report back. I also need to do a simple remay test to see if that helps. It’ll surely help with the 3 lined potato beetles, the other more ‘nuisance’ pest afflicting Physalis
I’m a big fan of P. peruviana. I grew up eating them in Hawaii, where they’re usually called poha, or poha berry. I’ve grown Hawaiian seed in the PNW and had luck ripening them as annuals. I started them in March indoors and set them out in the garden in May. They seem hardier than other members of the Solanaceae family and tolerated a few degrees of frost.
My experience is identical in Kentucky. They attack peruviana, also native ground cherries, leaving little edible fruit. I also suspect a Physalis specialist moth but have not confirmed. If one could figure out oviposition timing, a few sprays of Btk would probably do the trick. I personally prefer the annuals, so will probably just abandon other species—for the time being anyway.
Glad to have confirmation this is happening elsewhere. I’ve researched and asked folks and had not gotten any useful feedback until now.
Looking at my pics, It sure resembles a fruit worm, with the black head and grub looking white body. The fruit is born continuously, so I’d think the pest would need to be close by for a long time, unless the larvae travel up the stems and find their way in that way. BT might be a good option. I’d thought about trying Surround or putting remay over. I’m thinking there is a pet of the life cycle that comes from the soil though. Just a hunch.
Much hardier. I trialed a couple types this winter in an Oregon greenhouse. The so called pineapple ground cherry all died back when temps dropped to around 40. The larger poha berry plant thrived all winter even when temps dropped into the mid 30’s. I suspect the poha berry would winter over outside in zone 9 if grown in a protected location. At the very least it would come back from the roots. The Chinese lantern I grow outside come back every year from the roots in zone 8. I’m not too keen on the Chinese lantern fruit, but the dried husks make a phenomenal winter display in my windows. I think Chinese lantern is worth growing for its ornamental qualities as long as you keep it in a container. It will take over an area as the roots are long runners.
I grow a few different types in western Oregon. The so called pineapple ground cherry is, I think, not that great and very small. Plus it’s very cold sensitive here in zone 8. The poha berry is a much more flavorful, much larger fruit and also much hardier. I dug one up last fall and kept it in a chilly greenhouse all winter. With low temps in the mid 30’s it thrived and is currently setting fruit in March. I’ll move it back outside and plant in the ground around the end of April. I also grow Chinese lantern, mostly for ornamental purposes. Branches with the dried orange husks dangling as ornaments make phenomenal window displays, adding a splash of color to the interminable winter overcast streaming through the window. The one large drawback of the Chinese lantern is they can be invasive here. The roots overwinter in the ground and send up runners every spring. I’d avise people to plant them in containers unless you don’t care if they take over an entire part of the yard. I have had zero problems with any pest on any physalis plant. All the insects leave them alone in my garden.
Here are pics from this winter of the poha berry in the greenhouse and the Chinese lantern window display:
I started Geltower (pruinosa), Lucie’s Big Goldenberry (peruviana) and Schoenbrunn Goldenberry (peruviana) to trial this year. You can see the difference between pruinosa and peruviana leaf size/shape. I’ll pick up an Aunt Molly (pruinosa) later this spring and compare the taste of the 2 pruinosa and 2 peruviana.
Lucie’s Big Goldenberry (peruviana)
Schoenbrunn Goldenberry (peruviana)
@Zumo Do you have any Hawaiian poha seeds left? I looked for plants when I was in HI in Jan but no luck. I’d gladly pay for shipping so that I could add to trial.
I’ve grown several varieties of physalis pruinosa and physalis peruviana. I much prefer the peruviana. I have also tasted quite of bit of the physalis that grows wild here in Illinois. The wild physalis tastes okay in general but the production and berry size is low. I also grew a perennial physalis virginiana and while it fruited prolifically, the size didn’t make it worth it.
My most recent endeavor in perennial physalis is a special strain from Germany of physalis alkekengi (Chinese lantern) which supposedly has none of the bitter taste that plagues most alkekengi. From the seller, it taste like peruvianas. I’ve been growing it in a grow tent all winter so that its a mature adult by the time the summer comes. It actually flowered prolifically for a first year but despite my best efforts, hand pollinating the flowers failed. I will be growing them out in pots outside this summer and am very excited about its potential.
Please update us on geltower. Theres a seller online that says its a pruinosa that doesn’t have the tomato-y flavor of pruinosas and taste much more like a peruviana. It would be very interesting if true.
This is interesting, as my family universally preferred our homegrown pruinosa to the store-bought peruviana when we tried it for the first time this winter, but I realize that’s an unfair comparison since they are probably different when homegrown. Hopefully I’ll find out this year.
The store-bought peruviana was ok, but seemed like a much more one-note flavor, mostly just very tart. On the other hand, pruinosa tastes like a sweet tropical fruit with only a hint of tomato, and even that hint basically disappears when fully ripe. It could be a little more tart to balance the sweet, though. I’ve grown and saved seed (or just relied on volunteers) for many years and I’m not sure where they came from originally, probably Baker Creek circa 2013.
The good flavored allkengi (spelling?) seems promising. Keep us posted!
The better peruvianas, IMO, have more complexity of flavor. They’re citrusy and a bit reminiscent of passion fruit. The Colombian grocery store ones, for all their breeding, are pretty one dimensional, I’d agree.
The native types can have quite good flavor, IME, approaching the quality of tastier peruvianas. You can see how prolific they can
grew out poha for the 1st time last year here in z4. started indoors in april. put out in 20 gal. pots in mid june. they grew to 6ft with support and produced fruit from july until nov. on the south side of my house. in early oct we got a 27 deg frost. half the plant died but the other half close to the house continued to ripen fruit. ive grown most ground cherries here and peruviana is superior in every way.